A couple of years back I had the absolute pleasure of working with a powerhouse of a sexy and intelligent woman. She was a mother to three gorgeous girls, was a very successful CEO and business woman and a human being that inspired me no end through her tenacity for living life to the fullest. But also for her extraordinary capacity to move on in her life whilst very still very much honouring her past.
We not only worked together to explore what her next chapter could look like working independently and establishing her own successful business, but to also uncover how she could make a difference on a more personal level.
As part of the coaching process and a commitment to reignite her passion for writing, we set a very specific action to write about something deeply personal that has not only shaped who she is, but consistently reminds her as to what is most important in life. We also agreed that we would have it published in one way or another to break through her own ego of whether or not it was good enough, because if she COULD support making a difference to ONE person, then WHY wouldn’t you face you fear and make a difference in some tiny way?
Today, in honour of all those who have had their lives torn wide open by the unruly destruction of loss and who are also still far away from gazing upon a horizon that boasts the potential of another beautiful day, is what my client wrote. It is raw, honest and wildly confronting, but above all, shares the roller coaster of life, love, loss and the opportunity to find your way back!
Guest post by Kate D……
HE WAS MY BROTHER…
“We are sorry for your loss”, “our deepest sadness and heartfelt sympathy”, “we will treasure him and remember him always”, “a gift, his life was taken before his time and for this we carry every regret”, “We are here with you, our thoughts, our love, our care”….
The words jumble around the courier delivered flowers, fruit boxes, massage vouchers, the world stops and cocoons with you for a moment…phone calls, meal parcels and then there’s tomorrow.
And the tomorrows hurt, and the days after, the funeral arrangements. No-one prepared you for this. His body kept at a foreign cool temperature for optimum preservation while you get to say your goodbyes. Choosing his burial outfit, his favourite top, sneakers or proper shoes…ermm sneakers. Where’s the memo, hey, your youngest brother will die at 25, here’s the checklist. Hello Valium, your new best friend. Oh, and hello Mr super friendly, served with a kick Vodka. A couple of shots to view the body, tick, a few more shots afterwards while you stave off the reality and face the next phone call. Tick. A few smashing shots before the funeral, a comfortable haze kicks in.
The blurr, the auto-pilot the survival button depressed on FULL ALERT. Its Vodka for breakfast, or yesterday’s lunch or perhaps it was dinner. Life is grey and patchy, the colour fell out of it, discarded with yesterday’s news.
I know about this life. It will trickle by, empty now of the space he filled. What the dirty sneakers smelt like and how many times you yelled for him to leave them outside, when he visited. You hanker for any familiarity to come racing back, you’ll take it all unjudged, the mouthwatering and the repellent, because all of this made up him, and you can’t just drink him in anymore. You can’t filter out the good parts and the parts you don’t need to know about. When you realize this, tears burn, a torrid path of sadness. If only…The days then fill with if only, if only burns, its welts a scar, finger nails across your breathe, cold tendrils around your insides, whispering the thickly guilt ridden, why didn’t I…. Why didn’t I just say this, why didn’t I let him win our last fight, why didn’t I tell him I loved him before the jump, no I was waiting to watch him fly. You keel with the sob, unexpected, gurgling out of you, no time to catch it first. A sister’s sadness, even the Vodka cannot keep it at bay.
The casket has been sent into the hurtling flames, you don’t want to think about it. The next chapter unveils itself. To someone else, it’s just another day, time to switch on the 6pm news. For you it’s a step in discourse, you stare blankly at a screen, maybe its been hours, the meaning lost between the seconds and the minutes scratching past in grief. You were just thinking about asking him around for dinner, he’d be starving after training, you go to the fridge and its not until the saucepan is on the stove, that you realize he’s gone. The meaningful others and well wishes, fade with the days ahead. For you, it will always be as real as your earliest memories, family. So you set a place for him anyway, it’s too soon to leave an empty chair.
Sometimes you think you see him in the street, you chase after him, his name escapes your lips, then you remember, it won’t be him that turns to answer. You stand at the counter, his favourite CD in hand, Christmas is around the corner, just as you pay you remember he won’t be here for Christmas. A quiet sob escapes. Much quieter now, as its been months and you’re growing used to this new rhythm. To the sister of only one brother now soundtrack. You make choices, choice about life and the world moves from black and white to a warm sepia. One day the colour returns, but its tapestry is different and you carry that ‘different’ with you. A bundle of memories, folded in your pocket, with you when you need them. The girl at the checkout counter smiles, and this time you remember to smile back. Hey, its going to be Ok.
HE WAS MY SON…
Fuck you world and you too God, you’re not there are you?
I had to be brave. I still had to push. I had to meet him, the little man I’d carried for 9 months. The healthy cherub that was going to be the first-born son. My nights, head and belly had swooned with motherhood. I talked and sung, I told him stories. We chose our football team. We discussed schooling, we had the girlfriend talk, just quietly, he and I, mother to son, sharing thoughts and values as I waddled the long stretch of the corridor to pee for the one-millionth time. He was going to be perfect, in the only way a mother can feel about their child, growing and blossoming inside them.
“Kate, here’s the grief counsellor, she’s going to talk you through this”. I look up over my swollen belly and hospital gown. “Kate, there are a few things we need to talk about. Do you want him placed directly on you, or would you like him swaddled and wrapped?”
Oh JESUS. What is she saying. I’ve never seen anyone dead, let alone my own son. How do I answer that. He’s my baby, please just give him to me. “Kate, there’s the details of his birth and death certificate, what would you like his full name to be. Would you like him cremated, or buried….A large number of couples don’t survive this trauma so we provide a full grief service support, for as long as you need the counselling”
A wracking contraction rips through me, I let out a deep guttural sound. My husband holds one hand, his eyes closed in sleep, his perfect nose and the familiar shape of his lips, finally real infront of me, his lashes long and full. I take in every detail, his finger nails, the shape of his hands, I kiss his forehead and hand him to my husband to hold. Safely in his fathers arms, he leans to kiss him, father to son, the resemblance is striking. So handsome both. A tear slips quietly, a disturbed path across my husband’s cheek. I hover somewhere far above, floating and drifting, watching this strange scene unfold below.
Our little baby is weighed and measured. All his details recorded in his little bluebook, including his time of death in-utero, 8hours ago, 10.23pm. He is unwrapped. From the safety of the ceiling, I see his broad shoulders, the curve of his chest, his perfect feet and I wonder how I’m able to float up here and yet see everything. Its all perfectly clear, accept for the black and white lens, the hospital gown is no longer blue, it’s a shade of grey. I float to the bathroom to change, I stare into the eyes of a stranger, they are dark grey and afraid, a different girl is peering out.
We leave him, alone. The hospital will keep him for a week, so we can go back and visit, say our goodbyes, introduce the family. Oh, Mum, I can’t wait for you to meet him, he’s just delish…her silence is deafening…yes of course I’ll come to the hospital, but oh, darling…I’m so very sorry that he’s dead.
The car trip home is still, a slick emptiness dangerously threatens to swallow me hole. I haven’t spoken, or made a sound, no tears. I took the drugs to stop my milk from coming in. I want to hide. The front door opens and my world falls apart. I didn’t know you can come home without your baby. I can’t walk past his room, his empty cot, his first blanket waiting in anticipation, the beautiful crafted owl, keening for a friend that will never come to play.
I lie in an embryonic pile, sobbing on the floor, the walls of the house echoing and bouncing in sadness. The days drip by, tripping and falling into each other, a dark monotone. I heal quietly on the outside, but the inside can’t quite catch up. I see him in my dreams, my smiling gurgling cherub, I awake to race and greet him and realise that my day time is the nightmare.
My sleep comes in fits and starts. I flip on the news – WORLD HORROR on the largest scale. GLOBAL ACT OF TERRORISM. Twin Towers collapse, people fall, others leap, lives obliterated. A BIG FAT welcome to my FUCKED UP WORLD. Come join my page. Black and White, horrific. Come march the same tune, the dark drum of sadness, of terror and loss.
Then one day I catch it from the corner of my eye, a small fresh sprig of green, so small and fragile, delightedly quivering in a light morning breeze. It stops me dead. I stare in wonderment, hey, I want to shout. HEY! HEY WORLD! Look at this. A tiny perfect sign of life – see it, see it for what it is, look how bravely it stands alone and faces the world. Look at its colour, a wild and magnificent green. How can we not live with this, how can we not dream again, how can we not see the great potential of life. C’mon, lets race, the first to the corner wins.